There are two dates on food products that are relevant to the customer, and these are the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates. Other dates on the packaging, including the ‘display until’ date, are only relevant to those that stock the food. See below the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’:
- Use by
‘Use By’ is applied on foods which, from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely, after a short period, to constitute an immediate danger to human health. Food cannot be sold, redistributed or consumed after this date.
- Best Before
‘Best Before’ is applied on all other foods, to indicate quality. Food can be sold, redistributed and consumed after this date.
Different food products will have different storage advice. The labels on your food product should tell you the best way to store it correctly. Advice should include:
- Storage advice can be found on almost all products to help you make the most of the food you buy, not just for safety reasons.
- Check whether the food is best kept stored in the pack, so it remains fresher for longer.
- Perishable and shorter shelf-life products, e.g., fresh produce, may have an icon on the front of pack, as well as specific and clear wording in other parts of the pack, which can help you to keep your food fresher for longer.
- Packaging may also advise the temperature your fridge should be to keep it cold enough.
One of the best ways to keep food fresher for longer is to freeze it. When buying a new food product, the label should have information on whether it can be frozen and how to do so. Advice should include:
- The label will tell you is a food product is suitable for home freezing, e.g., the snowflake logo.
- A crossed-out snowflake logo shows that a food product is not suitable for home freezing.
- Any additional freezing advice will be found below the snowflake logo.
- Make sure when freezing you do it before the products ‘Freeze by date shown’ or ‘Freeze as soon as possible after purchase’.
- A product may also inform you of how long you can keep a food product frozen.
- Labels will give you instructions on how to defrost a food product safely.
- Labels will tell you if a food product can be cooked from frozen and will also have instructions on how to do so.